Given that the developer is responsible for the most successful Western-style RPG of recent years, Oblivion, it was a little surprising, during Fallout 3’s demonstration, to get the sense of a team with something to prove. While there’s much about FO3 that recalls Oblivion, there are also regular elements that arise as if to signify, “You know – we’re good enough to deal with a legend as big as Fallout. Watch this.” In itself, this is a tad touching. A team like Bethesda would probably be justified in going, “Damn the lot of you – our way is the best way.” The result is something that – on these impressions – seems to be the next logical step on from Oblivion, while infusing as much of what made Fallout Fallout as they reasonably can.[…]
It’s at your birthday party, and you’ve just received your Pip Boy wrist terminal and promised your first work detail, but between the amusement of robots ruining birthday cakes, you get your initial conversations. The first one is standard enough (though it introduces the concept of lying), but the next one we’re shown is with a bullying peer by the name of Butch, where you appear to have at least six cake-related options available; everything from a diplomatic, sharing-it-fifty-fifty option, to the openly perverse provocation of spitting in it and then giving it him. Bethesda’s Pete Hines, demoing, stresses that these options will all play out differently down the line. The point is to show that we’re a long way from the “Yes, I’ll help you”/”Yes, I’ll help you for three pounds fifty and a cheeseburger”/”I WILL KILL YOU AND TAKE YOUR STUFF” conversation options with which most modern RPGs satisfy themselves. Hines and co. have talked about the game being a much more dense conversational game than Oblivion, and this is them showing how they’re walking the walk as well as talking the post-apocalyptic talk.[…]
Also worthy of a quick appreciative nod is the age of one sequence, where as a Toddler you make your way around your room making the literal first baby steps in the game. You also select your future abilities in a fully illustrated kids’ book called “You’re Special!”, arranging your assorted statistics. Is it too much to read this as a pointed eye-rolling at the perennial accusation of dumbing down? I suspect not.[…]
Combat including the VATS (Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System) is also demonstrated – and here my expectations are somewhat confounded. I came not entirely convinced by the VATS system’s utility – it struck me as the worst of both possible real-time and turn-based worlds – and leaving quietly impressed. Related to your dexterity, you gain an amount of pause-time, which you can spend on specifically calling shots – for example, aiming at arms to lose their weapons or just pummelling their body to knock them down. This then plays out in a cinematic video of the conflict, with agreeably macho angles. It looks actually stylish – in fact, this turn-based-game with 360-era graphics makes me even think that a fully turn-based game would have worked. Why can’t we have a turn-based game which goes for a crazy graphic effect? It’ll have the attraction of being distinctive, anyway.
This is especially pointed as the non-turn-based side fails to convince as much as you’d hope.[…]
Which is unfair, but that’s how it is. On a personal level, I found Mass Effect had a similar problem – the hope has to be that Fallout has a similar grace to Bioware’s game. That is, the combat is just about good enough to serve the purpose the game demands of it, and leaves the rest of the game’s charms to get its hooks into you.[…]
As with any game as big of this, we’ll only really get a chance to see how it hangs together when we stride out into the waste to see what’s out there. I’m looking forward to it.
There’s a lot more there, worth a good read. The “I’m Special!” book is just an homage to the games ruleset, and there’s nothing really close to Turn Based combat in VATS, but I can see his point, I asked myself the same thing a lot of times in the last months.
In passing, if any of the NMA guys are reading, the bit where I talk about how I’d like to see this turn-based thing go further, was me badly phrasing that the “Give orders/see results cinematically” is a bit like how turn-based games work. Clearly the pause-time attacks of VAS aren’t a true turn-based game, but it shows that a turn-based like interaction lead to cute results, at least on first impression. Since that’s relatively strong and the normal-combat is relatively weak, I’d have been interested in seeing them pursue it a bit more.
I should have been a lot more explicit with what I said.